Here are the highlights from last week’s action in the Senate –
Abortions after 20 weeks – The Senate spent most of last week debating H. 3114, a bill that would prohibit abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. The foundation for the bill is scientific discovery that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks. Much of the debate centered on whether the prohibition should include exceptions for rape, incest, and late-discovered fetal anomalies that are inconsistent with life outside the womb. The Senate will continue discussing the bill this week.
Capital reserve fund and bond bill – Each year the General Assembly sets aside 2% of the previous year’s General Fund Revenue into a Capital Reserve Fund. At the same time, though, the legislature typically spends the money set aside last year for capital projects across the state. This year the Senate Finance Committee attached a provision to borrow (bond) approximately $240 million for capital projects at our technical colleges and universities and National Guard armories. The Senate began consideration of that legislation last week, but the bonding provision was discarded based on a technicality. The Senate must still consider how to spend approximately $84 million in Capital Reserve funds.
Funding for roads and bridges – On Tuesday the Senate agreed to debate legislation to provide more funding for roads and bridges. I voted to allow debate because of the strong support among Senate Republicans for a plan that would repair and maintain our roads and bridges, reform how decisions are made at SCDOT, and provide significant income tax relief.
As I discussed in last week’s update, here are the highlights of our proposal:
Reform SCDOT governance – The plan would create a new, eight-person commission appointed by the governor with legislative screening and confirmation. The commission would hire and supervise the Secretary of Transportation.
Income Tax Relief – The plan would return over $700M to SC taxpayers by reducing personal income taxes by 1% across the board over a five-year period. SC currently has marginal tax rates at 3%, 4%, 5%, 6%, and 7%. The proposal would reduce those rates to 2%, 3%, 4%, 5%, and 6%.
– the $700M would come entirely from growth over the next five years, thereby returning some of the growth to the taxpayers who made that growth happen
– slow the rate of government growth
– make South Carolina’s income tax rates competitive with other Southeastern states. We currently have the highest marginal rates in the region.
– every South Carolina income tax payer would benefit
Dedicated funding for roads and bridges – The plan would send an additional $800 million per year to SCDOT for roads and bridges. Of that amount, roughly $680 million would be new money. The plan would:
– Transfer roughly $130M/year in existing vehicle sales tax revenue from the General Fund to roads and bridges
– increase the state’s gas tax by 12 cents per gallon over a period of three-five years.
– adjust the gas tax for inflation each year starting in 2018
– double the fees for obtaining a South Carolina driver’s license and registering vehicles
– imposing new fees for alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles and commercial vehicles
– raise the cap on sales taxes for vehicles from $300 to $600
Since 30%-40% of gas tax revenue comes from nonresidents, South Carolinians would actually see more in tax relief than we would pay in additional taxes and fees.
The Senate will likely debate the plan later this week or next week.
Automated phone calls – I have heard from many folks over the past week about several automated phone calls from Americans for Prosperity. The phone calls deceptively suggested I had voted to raise the gas tax and increase many fees. In fact, the message was about the proposal I described above. Of course, the group told you only about the revenue portion. They intentionally did not mention the reform or tax relief components that make the proposal a tax cut for every income taxpayer in the state.
As I have said in previous email updates, every one of my town hall meetings this year, and in numerous conversations with people over the past several months, I am committed to fixing our roads and bridges. However, for me, it must be a package deal that includes (1) sufficient funding for SCDOT to do what we all expect SCDOT to do, (2) significant income tax relief for South Carolinians, and (3) substantial reform at SCDOT to ensure more confidence in how decisions are made and who makes those decisions.
I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. Please share them with me via email.
Hearing on Palmetto Pipeline – Kinder Morgan plans to construct a pipeline carrying up to 167,000 barrels of refined petroleum products from Belton, South Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida. A portion of the pipeline will run through Aiken County, Edgefield County, and McCormick County. Kinder Morgan has agreed to hold a public hearing at the North Augusta Community Center (495 Brookside Avenue) at 6:00 on Thursday, May 21.
Want to see the general assembly in action? – The Senate meets in statewide session on Tuesdays at 12:00, Wednesdays at 2:00, and Thursdays at 11:00. Committees and subcommittees meet Tuesday afternoons, Wednesday mornings, and Thursday mornings. You can watch live coverage of the Senate, House of Representatives, and committees here.
Our Senate district – Senate district 25 consists of all of Edgefield County and parts of Aiken, Lexington, McCormick, and Saluda Counties. If you’d like to see the district map, go here.
Voting record – If you’d like to see how I’ve voted on issues, go here. You can always check to see how I vote by going to my website, www.senatormassey.com, and clicking on the “Voting Record” tab.
Speaking with groups – Several groups, clubs, and classes around our Senate district have invited me to attend their meetings and provide legislative updates. If you would like for me to come speak with your group, please let me know.
Email updates – If you know of people in or around District 25 who do not receive my updates but would like to get them, please email their names and email addresses to me. You can also forward this email to them and encourage them to sign up for the updates at www.senatormassey.com.